Archive for Saturday, June 16, 2007

New deal and new wheels at KU

Under different operator, buses to be crimson and blue

June 16, 2007


KU students will see new buses on campus next month

Kansas University has hired MV Transportation to run 'KU on Wheels' for the coming year. Enlarge video

The blue-and-white buses of Lawrence Bus Co. will soon be replaced by crimson-and-blue models running out of the Kansas University campus, part of the university's plan to improve service, reduce exhaust emissions and boost potential for coordinated transit offerings with the city of Lawrence.

California-based MV Transportation, which already operates the Lawrence Transit Service, starts July 2 as the operator of KU on Wheels. The company landed the $1.8 million contract for the 2007-2008 academic year, and will be driving a fleet of 28 buses that the university is buying for another $1.456 million.

The KU system handles about 10,000 boardings each day.

"It's a service decision," said Danny Kaiser, assistant director of KU Parking and Transit. "It's a service that we wanted to be able to have control over, what the quality of the fleet was. We don't want to be relying on an outside provider - regardless of who that is - to give us buses we may not like. If we buy the buses, we're in control.

"These buses had to be ADA compliant, with functional lifts, and not belch black smoke. And the exhausts all have to be pointed up at the sky and not down at the street. Emissions were a big deal to students and almost anybody on campus."

KU chose MV Transportation over Lawrence Bus Co., which has been running the campus bus system for decades, using its own buses, and has been a Lawrence fixture since 1960.

With KU's decision to switch providers, Lawrence Bus Co. plans to close for good June 29 - idling its 27 buses, leaving 53 employees out of work and closing the book on 47 years of history.

Debbie Kelley, a Lawrence Bus Co. manager who has spent 24 years with the company, said KU officials likely would look back on the decision in a few years with regret.

"I feel sorry for them," said Kelley, who figures she may head to California to drive buses on movie sets. "We've always tried to keep the cost as low as we can and still provide a service that they don't have to worry about all the time. We tried to keep all the worry out of it, and we've done that for years.

"I wish them all the luck in the world. If that's what they've decided to do, that's what they've decided to do."

Kaiser said many of Lawrence Bus Co.'s employees likely would be hired by MV Transportation.

Kaiser said the decision to hire MV Transportation as the KU on Wheels operator came down to both cost and services. The system's routes will remain the same for next year with the exception of one addition: a fare-free bus serving lots near the Student Recreation Fitness Center and Memorial Stadium.

MV Transportation's bid to handle the $1.8 million in work also came with a number of extra service amenities, Kaiser said, such as technology that will enable riders to be notified of approaching buses.

"It's the wave of high-tech that's out there now," he said.

The new buses purchased by the university all are at least 12 years old, Kaiser said, but still will be more environmentally friendly than those used by Lawrence Bus Co.

And now that all the buses will be ADA compliant, he said, it would be logical to see that prospects for coordinating operations between KU on Wheels and the T would be improving.

"There have been barriers, and the buses have been the barrier - the big barrier," Kaiser said.

With the decision to buy its own buses and hire MV Transportation, KU has made its commitment to transit, Kaiser said. Now it's up to city officials to decide how they want to proceed with their system, and then work with KU about possible coordination.

"We're going to try to coordinate things, on a short-term basis, as best we can," Kaiser said. "We'll try to find opportunities for riders to move back and forth between the two systems. : If there are ways for us to stop duplicating our efforts, we need to start doing that.

"We need to find a way to make that happen."


Godot 10 years, 11 months ago

"The new buses purchased by the university all are at least 12 years old, Kaiser said, but still will be more environmentally friendly than those used by Lawrence Bus Co."

Why is the Lawrence Transit saying it needs new buses because, at 10 years, they will have reached the end of their reliability, but it is okay for KU to buy 12 year old used buses?

shirinisb 10 years, 11 months ago

When I drove for Safe Ride (which is owned by Lawrence Bus Co.) I leared that some of the Ku busses are over 40 years old, and are basically held together by duct tape. Not to mention the hundereds of other digusting things about LBC. Thank goodness KU finally grew the balls to shed that plague.

Godot 10 years, 11 months ago

Hawk is probably right; this whole thing about cutting the routes and the budget for the T is just theatre, prepping us for the inevitable merger with KU.

Mayor Hack touts a 20% increase in T ridership (since when, I am not sure) Is that due to the reduced fare given to KU students to entice them to ride the T? If they had paid full fare, would the budget cuts need to be as steep?

erod0723 10 years, 11 months ago

Are student fees increasing as a result of the new busses? If so, that is something to take into consideration. I think it is great that all of KU's buses will be ADA compliant. This could result in higher enrollment rates for physically disabled individuals, which is great for the campus. Anytime the diversity of campus can be increased, it will only help the student population as a whole. Good job Hem.

tkindred 10 years, 11 months ago

Who cares about having a local company running the buses. I attended KU for 7 years. Every time I was behind one of those buses on my bike it felt like I was going to pass out. I often wondered why a community that supposedly cares about the environment would allow such buses to pollute so much. It seemed the amount of pollution that was being emitted by the exhaust had to be in violation of some sort of law. Now I live in San Francisco but I wish they would have done this a long time ago.

fletch 10 years, 11 months ago

LBC has some massive problems (namely in management). While I'll miss the look of the retro buses, I won't cry about LBC losing business.

rockchalk04 10 years, 11 months ago

Wow, some people are reading way too much into this. The contract for running KU on Wheels was up for bid and two companies went for it; MV and LBC. MV offered to provide more services and better service, all at a lower cost, and it was clear to everyone involved that it was an obvious decision. LBC, after its 40 years of work with KU, has been completely mailing it in for a while now, thinking they were secure in their position. KU got a much better opportunity and went with it.

compmd 10 years, 11 months ago

I'd love to get my hands on one of those old buses. I wonder what kind of engine they use. Marion, thoughts?

guesswho 10 years, 11 months ago

I didn't know we had a local manufacturer of buses that we are no longer supporting.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 11 months ago

"More proof as to why blind support of local business is folly."

Blind support of any business is folly. Wal-Mart included, but we see a lot of it on these boards.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 11 months ago

"No one believed that Francisco would run, she did and she won."

What are you talking about? It was no secret that Marci wanted to be in the legislature-- she almost got the house seat. Oh, and it's kind of old news that she ran and won. It was even reported in this newspaper.

Also, it's no secret that the city and university have been considering merging the two bus systems. It likely will happen, and it will cost money-- but the University has no fire department, and they pay the city to provide that protection. I expect that the student senate will continue to fund bus service even after any sort of merger.

fletch 10 years, 11 months ago

"The taxpayers are being primed for an expense to scooot students at KU around"

KU on Wheels is 100% student funded and student managed. All revenue comes from student fees and bus fares. So that's 0 of your tax dollars at work. As for any merger down the road, I don't see the students voluntarily giving away their power and control to boost the city service without gaining some huge concessions. The T needs KU on Wheels a whole lot more than KU on Wheels needs The T.

Godot 10 years, 11 months ago

The T needs to go away.

Saw an almost empty T rocketing through the left turn at 33 & Iowa today; one driver, one rider. What a waste.

Ragingbear 10 years, 11 months ago

I was stuck behind one of the KU buses the other day at a light. Being on a motor scooter instead of a car made it even worse. The amount of smoke and exhaust was so bad that it caused me to have to throw out the clothes I was wearing. Not only that, but I found myself so woozy that I had to drive off of the road into an adjoining lot (hopping a curb in the process) and sit there for about 5 minutes before my head cleared up enough.

Those things are rolling smog machines. From the insides that are nearly as bad, commonly not even having a decent fan system inside, much less any form of air conditioning.

I think that this will help the city bus system anyways. Are they still talking of a partial merge? Or was that a pipe dream that didn't bribe the city manager enough?

Keith 10 years, 11 months ago

Now the question is, will Bo Harris be able to tear down those old bus buildings, or will they fall down on their own first?

armyguy 10 years, 11 months ago

The KU buses are funded 100% by student fees and student bus fees, the only student run and operated system in the country. The students VOTED to increase their student fees to fund these busses. The city leaders, several times, have come to the students in the past to inquire about a possible merger of the two systems without an agreement. That is to say the Students at KU perhaps are smarter at running a bus system than the people my tax $ are paying. They have X amount of $ too spend and that is what they spend or they go to those who pay the $ and have it voted on to spend more.

Yeah for less black smoke in Lawrence and Campus.

djalexander79 10 years, 11 months ago

Who will be running saferide? To my knowledge that is a seperate contract...

erod0723 10 years, 11 months ago

"Who built, i.e. PAID for the fire stattion at 19th and Iowa. And KU "pays" for fire protection> ? that's a really good one. KU is not a private company paying for anything. The taxpayers pay for KU's fire proctecton. What fire ladder did you fall from bozo?" How many jobs does KU provide Lawrence residents? 1000? 5000? KU is what defines Lawrence and has helped it grow in size and budget. I'm sorry you feel that fire protection is not necessary, but last time I checked, buildings still burn down. Also, there is an EMS unit at the 19th and Iowa station. This has helped reduce response times. 3 minutes can mean the difference between life and death. Finally, isn't KU located within Lawrence city limits? Therefore, shouldn't the university receive the same level of fire protection as the rest of the city? There are upwards of 2000 students that live on Daisy Hill. The fire department needs to be able to respond quickly to fire alarms, or else risk putting all these students in harm's way.

lawrencian 10 years, 11 months ago

I think SafeRide is run on the same contract as KU on Wheels -- you could probably check on the KU site somewhere!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 11 months ago

I don't know exactly what the arrangements between KU and the city are w/regard to fire protection, but I do recall reading that KU does make contributions to the city or various sorts to compensate, even if the expense to the city is more than it recieves in compensation. I do recall specifically that the land the new fire station is built on was provided by the Endowment Assn.

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